Everything You Need To Get Started In Tabletop Wargaming
Updated: May 29
All the stuff that I use to collect, build, produce and play wargames.
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90% of the time I use cheap synthetic brushes that I buy in bulk for pennies on the dollar, and then, when they lose their tip, I trash them without stressing about it.
These brushes are good overall brushes that are applicable for all sorts of uses. The little ones do a good job keeping a tip for several weeks and have a substantial belly to hold the paint. The larger ones are good for washes, and the even larger ones are good for terrain. I always have at least two unopened packages of these brushes in my drawer.
These are another super cheap set of detail brushes that I turn to when I want detail but don't need perfection. The best part of these brushes is that they are about $0.80 each, so if they lose the tip just chuck them in the bin and you won't feel like you've lost any money.
If I'm going to spring for an expensive (relatively) brush the Winsor and Newton is the brand I trust. This brush is great for fine detail work. It's not cheap (though it's not expensive, relatively) but it's one that you'll want to keep clean and cared for.
You haven't drybrushed until you've drybrushed with makeup brushes. This is such an easy hack: the brushes are ideal, the drybrushing is a dream, and you can't beat the price point. And if you even give them token care they'll last for a long time.
Not exactly a brush, but it's the perfect tool for the job. Sure, I've seen people apply texture pastes with brushes or sticks (we'll discuss texture pastes in more detail below) but it's just so darn useful. Plus I figure I ought to include at least one Games Workshop product in this. It was getting neglected.
I use a mix of Citadel paints and Vallejo. I love the colors that you get from Citadel (I especially love going to the store with the Citadel Colour app on my phone to get just the right mix of base, layers and highlights. That alone is a big plus in Citadel's favor, as is the fact that in my part of the world, Citadel paints are SO much easier to find than Vallejo.
Unfortunately, Citadel Paints are going to rip you off if you buy them from Amazon so it's best to go to your FLGS and browse their varieties. Here's link to Citadel's website (there are no affiliate links for this).
I love Vallejo Paints, and I especially love the fact that, in the United States, the only reliable way to get them at a good price is to buy packs of them. In the past I have bought the Vallejo Face/Skin Colors Paint Set, 8-Colors, the Vallejo WWII Allied Forces Paint Set , the Model Color Paint Set - WWII German Camouflage Colors, and many many more. You can buy the colors individually but they're usually marked up a lot because they're shipping from Europe. Occasionally you can find a single color that you want (and when I do I tend to buy two bottles of it.)
Some people live and die by Army Painter. I haven't had the best luck with them, though there are individual paints in their lines that I like. The best thing about Army Painter is that you can get a bug chonky box of starter set all at once with everything you'd ever need: The Army Painter Wargamers Complete Paint Set .
For terrain projects you don't want to waste expensive miniature paint on large pieces, so I buy craft paint from Michael's, but here's an equivalent brand from Amazon: Apple Barrel PROMOABI 18pc Matte Finish Acrylic Craft Paint Set, Assorted Colors.
For me, washes begin and end with Citadel. I've seen some side-by-side comparisons between Citadel's Agrax Earthshade and Army Painter's Strong Tone, but aside from that one example (in which the experiment proved them almost identical) Citadel has the best washes and selection, hands down. Citadel Paint, Shade: Agrax Earthshade
Citadel Water Pot
I wrote a whole blog about how good this water pot is. Try it. It's cheap, and so much better than a mug or a mason jar. Citadel Water Pot
3D Filament Printer
My 3D filament printer is the Ender 3 Pro, and I use it all the time. I don't think it's flawless: I had to replace the hot end once and leveling it was a pain in the neck, but I have printed out many, many terrain pieces with it. And you can't beat the price.
I have honestly never tried anything other than this Hatchbox stuff, but I've also never had a reason to. It works great every time. HATCHBOX PLA 3D Printer Filament, Dimensional Accuracy +/- 0.03 mm, 1 kg Spool, 1.75 mm, Black,
I have two lamps on boom arms on my desk, one of which is a white LED lamp, and the other is a fluorescent. The LED is far superior. Ever since buying the LED lamp I hardly ever haul out my lightbox for taking pictures anymore. Neatfi XL 2,200 Lumens LED Task Lamp with Clamp, 24W Super Bright Desk Lamp,
Speaking of, this is the light box that I use (sometimes) to take pictures of my minis. I love it, but it's big. It sits up on the very top of a bookcase beside my desk and I only get it down if my desk is clean enough to fit it. But it takes great pictures. Upgrade Emart 14" x 16" Photography Table Top Light Box 104 LED Portable Photo Studio Shooting Tent
Proxxon Hot Wire Cutter:
I swear, this thing changed my life. If you do any work with foam, you owe it to yourself. It's not that expensive, and it makes everything you do clean and even.
I don't have a big studio so I don't have a lot of power tools. I find that a good jigsaw will do any job that I need done. If I need something more precise I go to a neighbor's house.
Terrain and Basing:
You don't want to buy this from a hobby store or from Amazon. Just go to a Home Depot or Lowe's and get a bag of Play Sand (like for sandboxes) and it's something like $5 for 30 pounds. You will never run out. I use it for all my basing, and my terrain. It's cheaper than sand from a hobby store, and it's cleaner than sand you'd get from your yard, garden or beach.
Army Painter Grass Tufts:
I go through so many of these things. I've probably used all of the colors multiple times.
I have used these selectively for certain terrain builds. They fit in really great with the Samurai build, as well as the American Revolution build.
Vallejo Texture Paste:
If you've ever used a Citadel product like Astrogranite or Stirland Battlemire, just switch over to this. It's exactly the same thing and about ten times cheaper. It dries hard and takes paint well. I've also used it on big terrain projects by itself as is.
When in doubt on scenery projects, I always revert to Woodland Scenics.
Static Grass Applicator:
I own one, but I don't recommend it enough to put a link up to it. I need to get a different one.
Again, Woodland Scenics is the best. I use this for bushes, hedgerows, and trees. It comes in a variety of shades.
For large water effects, I like Woodland Scenics Realistic Water. You have to be careful with it as it can run everywhere (and then dry like glue) but it gives a good effect.
For PVA glue, which I use an awful lot, I use simple Elmer's Glue-All, watered down. It's super cheap.
When I'm not in the mood to water down my PVA and I want something that will do the same job but stronger and faster, I use Woodland Scenics Scenic Cement.
Cyanoacrylate Glue (Super Glue):
I go through a lot of this, and I prefer the brand Loc-Tite. I usually buy it in 4-packs so I never run out (because running out of glue is always the most maddening thing.)
With cyanoacrylate glue, you want to use an activator to get it to work strong and instantaneously, especially if you're gluing something fiddly or made of metal.
I love this stuff, mainly because it doesn't eat through foam (like most sprays do). I can spray this over foam and then lay down grass or sand, and it work like a treat. Not too expensive either.
These bins seem to be the perfect size to house models in good condition and stack them neatly and compactly. I think I have twenty of these bins.
For paint racks I use these acrylic nail polish racks that I found. They are the perfect size for Citadel paints, but work for Vallejo, too.
My Favorite Tabletop Wargames and Models
For a long time I was all Games Workshop, all the way. I started with Games Workshop when I bought that first box of skeletons in probably 1989, and I continued with Games Workshop for most of my life. But recently I have found a passion for other forms of gaming, particularly historical wargaming and independent wargaming. A
And admittedly, I don't play a ton of games--I just paint a ton of models--so some of these models listed below don't have specific games attached to them.
Anyway, here are the main tabletop wargames that I have played (and recommend):
Of course it starts here. While yes, my first box of minis was technically the skeletons, the first game I ever played was Warhammer 40k 2nd Edition. In particular, I played Squats and Harlequins. Squats are out of print now, and Harlequins disappeared for many years, but they have made a triumpant return. The link here is to the current Warhammer 40k starter box, Indomitus, which has two armies and all the rules. It includes Space Marines (of which I have collected SO MANY) and Necrons (one of the few armies I never have had).
Yes, they are space clown elves. But they're murderous space clown elves. I don't know where the idea for these guys came from, but I love them. They're basically acrobatic colorful ninjas.
I have collected many, many Space Marines over the years, but never have I gotten into them as deeply as I did the Blood Angels. Basically close combat assault warriors, who have blood lust--they literally drink the blood of their enemies like vampires. (But in an awesome way.)
Another favorite group of Space Marines is the Deathwatch, which is kind of an elite group that brings in veterans from all the other chapters, the best of the best--kind of a Top Gun for Space Marines.
Way back when Squats went out of circulation I started an Imperial Guard army because I could repurpose the Squats as Guardsmen. Plus, the Imperial Guard has tanks. It's an incredibly shooty army that is terrible up close, and I loved to see my brother's Space Wolves charging across the table to tear me apart as I tried to shoot him to pieces before he could.
I never REALLY collected Sisters enough to call them an army, but I dove headfirst into the 2019 reboot and I painted every one I could get my hands on before my money dried up. Everything about them is over-the-top gothic Space Catholicism, and it's awesome.
My first army that I ever bought as an adult with a job, and I think I bought an entire army from the catalog (before the website) in one go. This was probably 2000 or 2001. They still haven't updated the Khorne Beserkers in all that time.